Art & Development, Travelogue

tempers, temperments, temperatures

My interest in optimism and pessimism is developing into an investigation of temperaments in Manchester and the UK.

Stuart Maconie’s travelogue, “Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North,” (Ebury Press, 2008 ) has been a wonderful, laugh-out-loud guide. I really enjoy Maconie’s writing, even if I have to look up several words–slang, local, or otherwise–per page. Maconie is a BBC personality, and his narratives ooze with charm:

And most famous of all, to be born within the sound of the Bow Bells is the mark of a true Cockney…. The first Cockney I heard was from a newspaper vendor who seemed to be berating a customer for not having the right change. That would have been it, but for two surly youths, their pinched faces volcanic with pimples, dressed in the cheap, nasty uniform of the urban urchin: fake Nikes, hoodies, flammable polyester trackie bottoms that would go up in a single woosh, outsized jeans. They both smoked in that affected way that people who are trying really hard to be hard do; fag between crooked index and middle finger, eyes narrowed, sucking desperately as if trying to actually remove by suction the B&H logo.

Maconie rightfully points out the hypocrisy of the disdain for (Northern) chavs while Cockney low-lifes are routinely glorified in Hollywood films, and most offensively cheery. He doesn’t spare judgement of Northern youth, however:

Two youths in the ubiquitous hoodie style of the early twenty-first century are trying to be menacing by a bus stop but failing because of the utter ridiculousness of their appearance. I know it’s a sure sign of middle age when you start chortling at how young people dress but, really, a hood worn over a flat cap. The effect is less lethal urban gangster than senile old bloke unaware that he’s put two hats on.

I was also quite amused to see this pop up in today’s Guardian in reaction to the recent snow chaos:

Meanwhile, yet another few thousand calls to the BBC mount up, so it seems timely to ask: how much does complaining cost the UK economy? All those people, presumably taking time out from work to get angry about countless perceived injustices.

Marina Hyde. “Let it snow on our nation of the permanently outraged.” Guardian. 7 February 2009.

Maybe it’s the lowbrow tone of the news here, but it does seem like Britons are quite vocal with their discontent. Everyone is talking about the snowstorm, which has caused chaos in London. You’d think it’s War of the Worlds down there.

Manchester hasn’t been hit too bad. As a Californian, I find the weather chilly; my hands crack and ache, and I invariably err towards lugging around a parka, scarf and gloves. On the other hand, I’ve been to Boston in the winter, and in comparison, Manchester really isn’t that cold. In the past 9 days, the weather’s been rather consistent: chilly air hovering around 40°F, little wind, a little snow between a few sunny days. The skies are rather gloomy, but there hasn’t been a drop of rain. Mancunians are so quick to point out how much rain Manchester gets, I’m starting to suspect this has more to do with a self-perception than actuality. The expectations are so low that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the weather a few times.

While I wouldn’t recommend it, lots of girls are out and about wearing short skirts and tights, or tees and a thin hoodie. I even saw a chap wearing basketball shorts in the snow, gawd bless ‘im.


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